|A test plot for the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel farm has been plowed along Wood Valley Road with ample irrigation, deep soil. Photo by Julia Neal|
STUDENTS FROM ALL OVER the world travel far to experience life in the United States, and County Council member Brittany Smart is calling for more families in Ka`u to contact the Center of Cultural Interchange and apply to host foreign high school students. Hawai`i’s unique location helps it attract students from many countries. Last year, 13 students lived in Kona from countries like Japan, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen, Mali, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, and Pakistan. Families can be singles or couples, with or without children, any religion or ethnicity, straight or gay, as long as they are able to provide a safe environment for students. Candidate families will go through a screening process. The students are 16 to 17 years old and will attend the local high school in the host family’s district. Call local coordinator Pamela Wang at 323-2117 for more information on the program or visit the center online at www.cci-exchange.org.
A SCENIC BYWAY MEETING will be held at Na`alehu Community Center this Monday at 6 p.m. Highway 11 in Ka`u has been nominated to be designated as a State Scenic Highway, following an application by the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce to the federal government. “The Slopes of Mauna Loa” with its large stretches and untouched landscape was the theme chosen by the committee established by the Chamber to oversee the designation of the scenic byway. This week’s meeting will entail the creation of subcommittees that will manage different aspects of the scenic byway and a public discussion on its priorities. Another byways meetings will be at Pahala Community Center Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.
While it takes 60 to 90 days for other states’ public utilities commissions to make a ruling, Abercrombie claimed on the campaign trail, it can take Hawai`i’s commission up to three years. The necessary funds and office space are cited as the main obstacles in reforming the two agencies. Cocke reports, however, that while the PUC and the state energy office remain two separate agencies, PUC Chair Hermina Morita claims that the governor has appointed able and highly regarded people to the commission.
THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION’S PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona.
Here are more questions and answers from `Aina Koa Pono:
Can the crops produce the volume of biomass needed to produce 16 million gallons of biofuel per year? Yes. The biomass volumes needed can be produced from less than the total acres leased by AKP, the company states.
Will the project result in greater economic diversity or dependence? Economic independence will be a side benefit as other service industries spring up in Ka`u. As Ka`u is primarily an agricultural area, by adding a new type of facility gives greater diversity, states `Aina Koa Pono. "This also means that it will make Ka`u more resilient to unexpected changes. For example, currently a poor crop of macadamia nuts or coffee depresses Ka`u because there is little else generating the economy," claims `Aina Koa Pono. "Once AKP’s facility is in place even an exceptionally dry or wet season will not affect the generation of biofuel and that will help keep the local economy regulated."